How did William Golding's life experiences influence the novel Lord of the Flies?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Golding was an English and philosophy teacher at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury before he joined the Royal Navy in 1940 where he would eventually fight in WWII. Both experiences shaped Golding's perspective on life and served as inspirations for his novel Lord of the Flies. Golding's experience attempting to teach and discipline unruly children influenced the characters in his novel. Golding understood how children behaved and was aware of their disobedient, selfish personalities. Golding also witnessed atrocities and death during WWII when he fought in several battles. Golding commented that he witnessed what man was capable of doing to one another during the war. Golding is quoted as saying,

"Anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head."

This pessimistic view of humanity influenced Golding's decision to represent the boys in the novel as being inherently evil. William Golding drew from his experiences as a teacher and soldier to create a novel that portrayed humanity's inherent wickedness. 

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Growing up as the son of an English schoolmaster and later becoming one himself, William Golding had abundant opportunity to observe the dynamics of the relationships among boys in their preadolescence. He is quoted as admitting that as a boy he had been a bit of a bully, confessing "I enjoyed hurting people." It seems likely that Golding's own violent behavior informed the characters in Jack's group of hunters. His day-to-day immersion in the lives of boys as their teacher undoubtedly helped him sketch out his characters' personalities and their conflicts.

When Britain became involved in WWII, Golding joined the Royal Navy and saw plenty of action, including serving as the commander of a rocket-launching ship. Because the boys in Lord of the Flies end up marooned on an island while a war rages not all that far away, it is clear that in writing the novel Golding combined his knowledge of the behavior of male children and what men are capable of in war.

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Lord of the Flies

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